Hazing News

Naked Launch: Point Loma hazing scandal
Christian campus is disturbed by hazing

PLNU apologizes, fires dorm director
By Sherry Saavedra

September 4, 2008

A hazing incident at Point Loma Nazarene University has triggered the firing of a residence hall director and a formal apology to the victims.

Freshmen in Young Hall were awakened in the middle of the night by upperclassmen, then told to march down the bluffs and swim in the ocean naked. Officials still are trying to determine whether students were slapped and whether one was urinated on during the trek to the water.

The hazing occurred at 2 a.m. Aug. 25, the first day of classes at the private Christian college, and prompted complaints from outraged students and parents.

Some students said the march is an unofficial annual tradition that got out of hand at a university not known for hazing.

“While we have a legal responsibility to eliminate hazing anywhere we can, we have a higher responsibility to make sure our institution builds people, not diminishes people,” said Joe Watkins, vice president for external relations. “And in our view, what happened was inappropriate. It was illegal, and we have taken swift disciplinary action.”

An investigation began on the first day of classes, and residential-life staff members made a public apology to freshmen in the all-male Young Hall, according to a letter to faculty and staff from university President Bob Brower.

“Every effort is being made to provide a clear path for students to talk with staff about the incident or to communicate confidentially to counselors regarding any concerns they might have,” Brower wrote.

A disciplinary process is under way for upperclassmen who were behind the incident. The punishment for hazing depends on the severity, officials say.

“Young Hall will be a Christian brotherhood which fosters the academic, spiritual, and personal growth of the student and develops a sense of honor and respect in a context of inescapable love and vital passion,” states the dorm’s mission statement on the university’s Web site.

Brandon Handy, a freshman last year who no longer attends Point Loma Nazarene, said that being told to swim in the buff is an annual ritual.

“The (resident advisers) force everyone out of their rooms and tell you to put on your board shorts, then rush you outside down to the cliffs . . . then tell you, you are about to go (naked ocean swimming),” Handy said.

When the students emerged from the water last year, he said, they found their board shorts had been taken to the parking lot in front of Young Hall.

“So you have to walk naked up the cliffs to put on your shorts, while trying not to slip and fall into the other naked guys in front and behind,” Handy said.

Handy said the incident did not leave him with bad feelings. Nobody was urinated on last year, he said.

“They did stuff like slapping us, but not really hard – just like the shoulder,” Handy said.

Point Loma Nazarene was founded 106 years ago in Los Angeles, moved to Pasadena and then relocated to San Diego in 1973. The school, with breathtaking views of the Pacific, serves 2,300 undergraduate students, who pay $24,580 in annual tuition.

Student body President Andrew Henck said students were surprised by the incident.

“I don’t think there’s any question that this is a significantly rare occurrence in the life of our campus,” Henck said. “This isn’t the norm. . . . The culture is one in which we value every student and staff member and the different life stories that they bring as members of our community.”

Parents were also caught off-guard.

“I guess it came as a bit of a shock, but when you stop and think about it, kids will be kids,” said Jim Seybert, a member of the university Parent Council. “It’s something that kids in college do. We did crazier things.

“But what makes it an unfortunate event is there’s a sense of community commitment at Point Loma. The students and faculty agree that this kind of thing isn’t part of the Point Loma community life.”

During yesterday’s campus chapel service, the university president, dean of students and chaplain addressed the hazing.

“Essentially, the message was an acknowledgment that the event occurred, a public apology for the event, and really a focus that this is a violation of our community and the respect and regard for one another in this community,” Brower said.

“It is deeply disappointing and inappropriate for our campus under any circumstances.”

September 4, 2008

A hazing incident at Point Loma Nazarene University has triggered the firing of a residence hall director and a formal apology to the victims.